Does Car Engine Oil Expire?

If you’ve ever found a bottle of motor oil lying around your garage you’ve probably wondered if it is safe to use in your vehicle. Similarly, if you have a vehicle that doesn’t get driven much, you may wonder if the motor oil in it will last longer than a regularly driven vehicle. Let’s explore these questions.

If properly stored according to the instructions listed on the container, motor oil can have a shelf life of up to five years. Unopened bottles typically stay good longer than opened bottles. The shelf life of motor oil is affected by the additives in different varieties. For example, if the oil contains elements such as copper, the shelf life is reduced since it speeds up oxidation. Storing motor oil in dusty, humid, very hot, or very cold environments can also reduce the shelf life of unused motor oil. 

Whether the oil is in an opened bottle, an unopened bottle or in a vehicle that is rarely driven, you need to know how to determine if the oil is in good condition before using it or driving the vehicle.    

How Long Does Motor Oil Last?

There are many factors that affect the shelf life of your motor oil. Some of those factors are whether or not it is opened if it’s in your engine, and what type and brand of oil it is.     

Unopened Oil

Unopened motor oil, if stored properly can have a shelf life of up to five years according to most oil brands.

Unopened vs. opened motor oil shelf life: Unopened bottles of oil that have been properly stored typically have a shelf life of five years. Even when properly stored, if a bottle has been opened and the is seal broken, the remaining oil should be used within one year.

Additives affect the shelf life: Oil can have additives such as antioxidants, corrosion inhibitors, rust inhibitors, detergents, dispersants, and several others. The addition of these can lessen the shelf life of the motor oil however, I was unable to find a specific time frame so the manufacturer’s instructions listed on the bottle should be consulted.

Oil in the Engine

Motor oil in the engine lasts for a shorter period of time than it does in unopened containers.

When should I change my oil: Oil in the engine should be changed according to your vehicle’s owner’s manual. The time between an oil change is typically 5,000 to 7,500 miles. If you use full-synthetic motor oil, you will be able to go as many as 15,000 miles between changes

What if my car hasn’t been driven: If your car hasn’t been driven very many miles, the oil is good for approximately six months. Any longer than that, it is recommended you change the oil.

Why is it bad to drive with old oil: Running old oil in your vehicle can cause the engine to run hotter which can eventually lead to it overheating.

Types/Brand of Oil Typical Shelf Life

There are many different types and brands of motor oil on the market today and different types of oil have different lengths of shelf life.

Motor oil is good for an “extended period” of time: Some motor oil brands state they do not have documented expiration dates and when stored properly, they remain stable for an extended period of time. The extended period of time is often estimated to be about five years.

Four common types of oil: There are different types of motor oil depending on your car’s needs. You can get full synthetic, synthetic blend, conventional, or high mileage. Each type is typically good for a period of up to five years if stored properly in unopened containers.

Engine life: The mileage for each type of oil is different. Full synthetic oil can last up to 10,000 miles. Synthetic blend is good for 7,000-8,000 miles. Conventional and high mileage oil are good for 5,000-7,500 miles.

Shelf life based on brand: Pennzoil and Shell Rotella list their shelf life at four years. Mobil 1 and Castrol GTX list five years. Valvoline has no documented expiration date. Quaker State boasts a shelf life of 10 years.

How Can You Tell If Motor Oil Is Bad?

There are some tell-tale signs to look for to determine whether or not oil in a bottle or oil in the engine is bad.

What if my oil is expired: If a bottle of motor oil is past the expiration date or you’ve had it for more than five years, it’s best to get new oil.

What if my oil is unopened: If the bottle is unopened and there is no expiration date, there are ways to check the oil’s quality and determine if it is still safe to use. If the oil looks hazy, it should not be used. Hazy oil is a sign that water has gotten into it. If you notice any separation in the oil, or if it is solid or sticky, the oil should be properly disposed of and not used in your engine.

How do I know if the oil in the engine is good: If you can’t remember the last time you had your oil changed and want to see if the oil in your engine is still good, there are ways to do so. Your check engine or oil light is usually the first alert you need a change. You can also check your oil and if it is dark or dirty, it is probably time for a change. Two other signs of bad oil are an oil smell inside the car or exhaust smoke.

How To Store Open Motor Oil

Proper storage of motor oil plays a huge part in how long your oil will last. An unopened, still sealed bottle of motor oil will last much longer.

Proper storage of motor oil: Most motor oil companies recommend storing bottles of unopened motor oil in a cool, dry environment. The container should be protected from dust, humidity, direct sunlight, and extreme heat or cold.

Effects of improper storage: A dusty environment can lead to deterioration of the quality of the oil. Storage in a humid area can lead to condensation in the motor oil and the moisture contaminates it and can lead to the formation of microbes. Storage in a cold area causes air to be sucked into the container while storage in hot areas causes air to exit the bottle. Direct sunlight can cause accelerated oxidation

How Do You Safely Get Rid Of Used/Expired Oil:

Whether you need to dispose of oil from your most recent oil change, or you have some expired bottles in your garage, there are proper and safe ways to do so.

How to dispose of unopened/expired motor oil: If you have unused or unopened motor oil, you can take it to a certified collection center. If that is not available in your area, you may contact your local curbside recycling program and see if they will pick it up. Another option is you may have the service station that changes your oil, recycle the oil for you.

How to dispose of used motor oil: Used motor oil should be cooled and collected in a clean, plastic container. Dirty motor oil cannot be recycled and should be taken to a waste disposal center. If there is not one near you, many auto stores and mechanic shops accept used oil and will dispose of it safely for you.


There is a lot to know when it comes to proper use, storage, and disposal of motor oil. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on each bottle of oil so you can get the most benefits from the product.

Leave a Comment